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Doctor examines a patient. (Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

“Normal-weight central obesity” is not a new concept, but it is an important one for us to understand the importance of the battle of the bulge. Most of us are familiar with absolute weight in pounds or kilograms. Some of us are familiar with body mass index (BMI), which takes height into account when determining whether a person is overweight or obese. But the impact on our health of body fat in our midsection has not been fully appreciated.

A new study has found that postmenopausal women with thick midsections are at higher health risks even if they have a normal body mass index. The health risks are a higher risk of dying, having heart disease or having cancer. More than 150,000 postmenopausal women in the U.S. between the ages of 50 and 79 were studied.

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Those with normal weight with central obesity (thick midsections) had about a 30% increased risk for early death. The study shows that total body fat may not be the only consideration in obesity risk factors, but the distribution of that fat could predict future health problems.

Central obesity was defined as a waist circumference more than 35 inches. Obesity was defined by standard BMI categories: normal weight (18.5-24.9), overweight (25-29.9) or obese (30+). BMI is calculated by dividing weight in pounds by height in inches squared and multiplying by a conversion factor of 703.

Dr. Mona Khanna (Photo: Submitted photo)

The women in the study of normal weight who had central obesity were likely to be older, nonwhite, and of lower socioeconomic classes. They also tended to have less education and were less likely to use menopausal hormones or exercise. We don’t know exactly why women with central obesity have a higher health risk except that known risk factors for cancer and heart disease include inflammation, high cholesterol and higher levels of the hormone insulin, which are all linked to abdominal fat.

Because the data from the study is from postmenopausal women, scientifically, the results cannot be applied to men or younger women.

Here are 20 effective tips to lose belly fat: http://bit.ly/ask-dr-mona08302019

Got a question?

Please email comments and your medical questions to AskDrMona@gmail.com. Remember: Your health is your most important asset. Guard it with your life.

Mona Khanna, MD, is a triple board-certified practicing physician, Emmy Award-winning journalist and acclaimed humanitarian who proudly calls the Coachella Valley her year-round home.

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